NBA Rookie Power Rankings: Jokic Moves Back Into the Lead

As the season winds down, it's a two-man race between Nikola Jokic and Karl-Anthony Towns.

The divide between the top two NBA rookies and everyone else continues to grow.

As Karl-Anthony Towns and Nikola Jokic play some of their best basketball to date, the other rookies on our list have encountered late-season slumps.

As the season winds down, expect the struggles to continue as exhaustion plagues the rookies, many of whom are used to playing just 35 games a year.

Who are the top five rookies this year, based on our nERD metric, which indicates how many wins above or below .500 a player would make an average team as a starter?

5. Kristaps Porzingis

nERD: 0.4

Perhaps no rookie has fallen off more than Kristaps Porzingis. He hasn't hit at least half his shots in a game since February 24th. That streak includes four instances in which he shot below 36 percent. Porzingis is now shooting just 42 percent on the year. 

Kristaps Porzingis eFG% TS% FG% Points per Shot
Before Feb. 24 47.4 52 42.7 1.04
Since Feb. 24 40.9 48 37.5 0.96

This decrease in efficiency could be connected to his increased usage over that same time period.

Before February 24th, Porzingis had a Usage Rate of 24.7 percent. Since then, his mark has bumped up to 28.6 percent, a pretty substantial increase. In fact, his Usage Rate since February 24th is just 0.3 percentage points lower than  Carmelo Anthony's.

To start the season, Porzingis was also second on the team, but the gap was much larger, about a 5.5 percentage point difference. With 14 games left in the season, it will be interesting to see if this trend continues. 

4. Myles Turner

nERD: 1.0

After exploding in late January and into February (winning Rookie of the Month in February), Myles Turner has slowed off his torrid pace a little bit in the past two weeks. He's been in double digits for scoring just three of his past seven games, including back-to-back four-point games.

He also is shooting a much worse percentage, 38 percent in March compared with 51 percent last month. Part of this is due to the fact that he's been playing less, approximately four minutes per game fewer in March than his February average. He's now averaging just a shade over 10 points and five rebounds per games. 

Myles Turner FG% TS% Offensive Rating PPG
Turner in February 51.0 52.6 103 13.4
Turner in March 37.7 45.1 87 9.9

3. Willie Cauley-Stein

nERD 2.2

Like Turner, Willie Cauley-Stein has also seen his performance slip recently. In the past eight games, he has struggled to see solid play time, playing fewer than 12 minutes in half of those games. In the four contests that he did see limited time on the floor, Cauley-Stein struggled to get much going offensively, totaling seven points on 3-of-9 shooting.

His Offensive Rating in March (115) is his lowest for a month since November. Even defensively, he hasn't been himself of late, with just three blocks in his past 11 games after averaging over one block per game to start the season.

2. Karl-Anthony Towns

nERD: 5.7

Towns is off to another dominant month, scoring at least 17 points in all but one of his first seven games in March. He also shot above 50 percent in five of those games. In March, Towns has taken just four three-pointers, connecting on one of them. That's off his pace of around one per game that he averaged in the months before March.

Another interesting trend is that Towns is scoring more unassisted buckets.  Basketball-Reference shows that, in the first four full months of the season, Towns never had fewer than 63 percent of his made field goals assisted. In March, that number is down to 60 percent. 

This is largely because Towns is incredibly skilled in isolation plays. Among all qualified NBA players, Towns ranks fourth in points per possession on isolation plays with 1.21 points per possession, according to In fact, none of the players above him ran even half the number of isolation plays that he did (78 times this season).

1. Nikola Jokic

nERD: 6.2

In the past two weeks, Jokic has shown why he's one of the best passing big men in the league. He's had at least three assists in each game so far in March, averaging 3.5 assists this month. This season, he's posted an average of 3.8 assists per-36 minutes, good for top-10 in the league. According to, he's sixth among centers for Assist Rate, in the company of notable passing big men like Boris Diaw and Joakim Noah. He's actually sixth among all rookies for Assist Rate. 

Compound that passing with his efficient scoring (59.3 True Shooting Percentage) and strong rebounding (11.2 per-36 minutes), and it's clear that Jokic has established himself as one of the best, most versatile rookies in the NBA.